Friday Farrago

The three fundamental lessons of economics:

1) People respond to incentives,

2) All decisions require trade-offs,

3) Opportunity costs are real.

Most people, and that obviously includes politicians, don’t seem to understand any of those three, let alone all of them. Another way to explain those lessons, but especially the last two, is that the ends almost never justify the means because resources are finite.


A picture by yours truly of an Alfa Romeo Montreal, taken in December, 2016 (hence the holiday flowers in the photo). I thought of this car since one is currently available on Bring A Trailer. Are you familiar with that site? People can buy and sell cars much less expensively than at a brick and mortar auction. The buyer’s commission is just five percent—as opposed to the ten or twelve percent at most auctions—and is capped at $5,000. The seller pays just $99, not eight or ten percent. Of course, one takes the risk inherent in buying a car online. However, the listings are filled with pictures, descriptions and comments by many knowledgeable people.

This Autoweek article is an excellent history of the car. The Montreal was built as a concept car for the 1967 Montreal Expo, although according to Autoweek, the car wasn’t officially given its name at that time. (Ironically, the car was never sold in Montreal, or anywhere else in North America as Alfa Romeo didn’t, or couldn’t, produce a version that would meet North American emissions standards.) The bodywork was designed by the legendary Marcello Gandini of Bertone. The Montreal was one of only three postwar Alfa Romeo cars that had a V-8 engine.

The first production version was shown at the 1970 Geneva Motor Show. The Montreal was a small car (not sure if that’s apparent from the photo) with only a 92-inch wheelbase and a 166-inch length. By comparison, my wonderful wife’s 2015 Corvette, which is not a large car, has a 107-inch wheelbase and a 177-inch length.

The V-8 in the Montreal was of small displacement, just 2.6 liters/158 cubic inches. (I try to keep Bill Stephens happy.) The net output was 197 HP/188 LB-FT of torque.

The Montreal was produced from 1971 to 1977 with only about 3,900 made in total. This website dedicated to the Montreal claims that exact production figures are not known. However, with the Arab oil embargo of 1973, demand for the car plummeted and never recovered. About 2,300 were made in 1972 and that number plunged to just 300 in 1973. Only about 400 were produced from 1974 to 1977 combined.

In my opinion, one would never mistake the Montreal for any other car. I think it is quite good-looking and it really looked quite fetching up close. In the past I have opined that one area where American auto makers have been deficient is in styling. The current blight of homogenized offerings is simply an extension of US car makers being afraid of pushing the styling envelope. I am very much a fan of Automobile Magazine’s motto, “No Boring Cars!” It should go without saying, but I am going to say it anyway, boring doesn’t just apply to drive train and suspension, it also applies to the appearance. Ed Welburn, General Motors’ Vice-President of Global Design from 2003 to 2016, likes to say that if cars have equal technology, then the better looking car wins. While, of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I think few would argue with the notion that foreign car makers often use bolder design themes than US companies.


My condolences to the family and fans of Aretha Franklin, who passed away yesterday from pancreatic cancer. My marvelous mom died from the same illness as did one of her brothers. I can’t truthfully say that I am a huge fan of Aretha Franklin, but I appreciate her talent and her impact on American music. I do have one of her songs on my iPhone, her version of “You’re All I Need To Get By.”

Carpe Diem!